How Profit Motive May Trump Secure Voting Systems

Presented by the North Carolina Chapter of The NAACP
In a coalition with local and national experts in election intergrity


UPDATE: Guilford County returning to paper ballots! (Oct. 2, 2019) ( )

With the recent headlines about foreign meddling in our elections and the prevalence of hackable voting machines, the importance of secure and verifiable elections in the U.S. cannot be overlooked or ignored. Yet the only federal level watchdogs have been put down like a pair of loyal family pets.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC), the only agency charged with policing campaign laws, has had its ranks gutted. As of 2016, the FEC says it no longer has enough members to conduct meetings, levy fines, make rules, conduct audits or vote on the outcome of electoral investigations, according to the New York Times. And since 2015, the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC), meant to certify the vendors who sell the voting machines, has been sabotaged by its own feckless leader Brian Newby, according to Politico reported that Newby “blocked  important work on election security, micromanaged employees’ interactions with partners outside the agency and routinely ignored staff questions,....”  Nine EAC office directors have left since Newby arrived. 

The essential loss of both oversight agencies has potentially serious consequences for the 2020 presidential election. The stakes are higher now than ever before, as the nation looks to verifiable re-elections and/or peaceful transfers of power. As election integrity expert John Brakey from warns; "The 2020 election is going to be very controversial, we need to prove to the loser that he really lost, otherwise things could get very dangerous in this country."

But even the institutional guardians of our state level elections are failing to protect the democratic will of the people. North Carolina has made national news this week… again, for all the wrong reasons. Racist gerrymandering at the highest levels, was finally revealed forcing Republican biased district lines to be thrown out, according to the Washington Post.

A 2017 report from the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), an independent academic project based at Harvard and Sydney Universities, revealed U.S. elections rank last among all Western democracies. The report was published with the headline suggesting "North Carolina no longer even classified as a democracy" in an op ed published in the Raleigh News and Observer by Andrew Reynolds.

Incompetence, indifference or outright illegal treatment of our voting ballot's chain of custody has undermined the public trust and damaged our nation's reputation as the world's champion of democracy. We are not sure who’s counting our votes, whether there is a paper trail, and who is meddling in our elections. Why have we fallen so far so fast?

One damning factor- is that for-profit, corporate interests have inserted their revenue goals between the voter and the vote often in the name of efficiency, expediency and economy. The systematic drive for privatization of government services promotes commercial models of planned obsolescence, cyclical up-selling, and residual revenue plans among voting machine vendors. Proprietary “black box” voting machine software is secret and non-transparent, making are electoral process non-verifiable and therefore simply “faith-based voting.” Sales quotas may be profitable for Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the country’s largest voting machine corporation, and other vendors, but this commodification of our voting processes has already damaged our democracy.

If you believe that voting machine vendors can be trusted, remember this; these large corporations are not accountable to the public.  

Georgia in 2002, handed their entire election to voting machine maker Diebold.  And the president of the company was allowed to install an uncertified software patch to 5,000 voting machines that arguably changed the outcome of the Cleland/Chambliss race, and conveniently Diebold’s service agreement didn’t provide Georgian voters any paper trail to audit.

In 2013, research discovered that the Dominion/Sequoia WinEds system, stopped the process to have their WinEds system legally certified, yet did not dissolve their multi-million dollar contracts to service those notoriously defective machines.

Election integrity proponents advocate for hand-marked paper ballots - read by a tabulator that not only digitally records the voter’s mark, but digitally records the hand-marked ballot’s image as well. The two images can be compared in a post-election audit or recount. Advocates also argue that risk-limiting audits, where a random and representative ballot sample are selected after the vote and hand counted to determine if they match the machine tabulated vote, are critical to ensuring an accurate vote count.

On Monday, September 16, 2019 in Greensboro, North Carolina an Emergency Town Hall meeting was presented by the North Carolina NAACP.  An network audience of churches across the state was introduced to a distinguished panel of election integrity advocates and computer security experts who shared their experiences and warned of the risks of electronic voting. The New Light Missionary Baptist Church fascilitated the event that attracted local citizens, officials, advocates, and subject matter experts.

One featured guest was Bennie J. Smith, a data analyst and election commissioner whose research uncovered a hidden utility program that runs in the background of the Election Management System (EMS). The program was a utility built into early iterations of the software and continues to exist in the current versions with the purpose of shifting fractions of a vote from one voter to another, effectively from one candidate or measure to another as a mathamatical necessity. Smith, described it as an vote inventory system that shatters the "one person, one vote" democratic principle. He demonstrated to the audience his findings, which were featured as the cover story in Bloomberg Business Week. “Fraction Magic.”

There were pre-recorded messages from Dr. Carol Anderson, the author of "One Person, No Vote," and reporter for The Root, Mike Harriot, author of "Thousands of Black Votes in Georgia Disappeared." Each describing in detail how inadequate voting machines are the tactics of "Jim Crow 2.0" in voter suppression.

Prof. Duncan A. Buell of University of Southern Carolina, a panel member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights regarding voting rights was joined in a teleconference meeting projected above the pulpit by Dr. Andrew Appel, Chair of the Princeton University Computer Science Dept. ('09-'15) and Harri Hursti, Finnish computer programmer well known for the Black Box Hack studies, the memory card hack demonstrated in Leon County, FL is popularly know as "the Hursti Hack."

The framework of our system of governance and the fabric of our faith in our democracy is clearly at risk, advocates and experts agree that citizens must do their part by contacting their state’s board of elections and deliver the clear message that; “We The People demand hand-marked paper ballots, secure digital images, and meaningful risk limiting audits. Anything less, is unacceptable.”

Ex-Pontiac Michigan elections commissioner now Elections System & Software Director of Sales Willie Wesley Jr. and ES&S CEO Owen Andrews demonstrate feeding a receipt-like, cast vote record (not a ballot, see example below) from one ES&S ExpressVote Ballet Marking Device into another to decipher the voter's intent which has been encoded into a machine-readable bar code. Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman would later to comment to the Guilford County Board of Elections; "I'm sorry, but I don't read bar code, I read Hebrew, a little Greek, and I read a little Spanish, but I don't read bar code."